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Somalia - Development and Failure

©2012 Essay 15 Seiten


Somalia is a country in the East of Africa, situated at the horn of Africa with a population of ca. 9.3 million (BTI 2012). In this part of the world, life is hard (e.g. infant mortality rate: 10%) and short (life expectancy at birth: 51 years). “Freedom in the World 2012” by Freedom House gives Somalia the worst possible rating both for political rights and civil liberties. It ranks at place 223 of 227 in terms of GDP per capita (CIA Factbook, 2012). The Global Peace Index lists Somalia as the most dangerous country in the world while the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG), which is supported by the United Nations, the African Union and the United States, merely controls parts of the capital Mogadishu (Bruton, 2009). Around 40% of Somali territory is occupied by a radical muslim militia called Al-Shabab. The famine that befell the horn of Africa in 2011 struck Somalia worst, a country, which is mostly referred to as a ‘failed state’ for 20 years now. The situation in Somalia, so much is clear, is very serious and appalling in a variety of fields. But why is that?

In this paper I will describe Somalia’s recent development in the framework introduced by Szirmai (2005: pp. 29-33), using his 9 characteristics of developing countries for classification, and - building up on that - inquire into possible explanations for its deficiencies and its failure as a state.


1. Widespread poverty and malnutrition

The Socio-Economic Survey on Somalia in 2002 (SES), conducted by the UNDP, finds that the estimated average annual income per capita (PPP) amounts to no more than 210$. The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which was newly developed in 2010 by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is a more encompassing measure than the traditional head count or the poverty gap and in a way contains both, hence the name ‘multidimensional’: “The MPI reflects both the incidence of headcount ratio of poverty (…) and the average intensity of their poverty”.1 Somalia ranks 99 out of 104 assessed countries on the overall MPI with 81% that are regarded MPI-poor1 and an average intensity of deprivation1 of 69%. In Somalia poverty translates directly to malnutrition, considering that in 2006 every third child under the age of 5 was underweight (CIA Factbook, 2012). It is important to keep in mind here that this rate may have even drastically increased over the last few years in consequence of recurrent droughts and the civil war between several militias that in combination entailed one of the, if not the, most devastating famines so far in the still young century. From may till august 2011 alone 29.000 children under the age of 5 were estimated to have died due to acute malnourishment, more than 600.000 children at that point in time were acutely endangered by the food shortage (NBC, 2011). It is thus safe to assume that the nutritional situation has rather deteriorated than improved since 2006.

2. A relatively large share of agriculture in output and employment

The Somali economy and labor market are both very much dominated by the primary sector. It generates 60% of the GDP and provides for more than 70% of the labor force. The fact that proportionally more people are employed in the agricultural sector than it yields in outcome is, as Szirmai rightly explains (p. 30-31), a display of the inferior productivity that agriculture

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features in comparison with the secondary and tertiary sectors. The so-called ‘agricultural productivity gap’ (Gollin, Lagakos & Waugh, 2011) illustrates that from a certain

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threshold-point on an economic emphasis on the primary sector is detrimental to productivity and thus to transnational competitiveness. Especially in countries that are particularly exposed to climate extremities, the dependence on agriculture is conducive to the vulnerability and instability not just of their food supply, but of their entire economy and the very means of existence of their people.

3. Pronounced dualism in economic structure

Technological dualism in Somalia is strongly associated with a regional dualism. Fig.3 illustrates this dichotomy by contrasting MPI poverty percentages of the urban and rural population for the ten dimensions of the MPI. The further the individual areas expand on this radar diagram the more people are deprived in that category; the respective surface area corresponds with the extent of

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deprivation. Strangio (2011, p. 50) explains the regional dualism by referring to the agricultural structures. He talks about some areas, where modern agriculture has (or had once) been more or less attained (mostly oriented towards exportation: e.g. bananas or sugar cane), and others where “agricultural practices were still tied to the traditional farming methods that had undergone very little modernisation and the backwardness of the subsistence level agriculture could not satisfy the needs of the growing urban population”. As Szirmai (p. 31) points out, dualism often is associated with high levels of income inequality. However, this does not apply fully to the case of Somalia. The Socio-Economic Survey (2002, p. 40) estimates the GINI coefficient for Somalia at around 39.7 (the official GINI index does not include Somalia), this would rank it ‘only’ 62th of 134 by the World Factbook assessed countries in terms of income inequality. A possible explanation appears to be that – while other developing countries (like Namibia, the No. 1 ranked country) have at least some resources that allow for a certain economic elite to emerge – even the foundation for an extensive income inequality is lacking in Somalia, which is often associated with a certain process of industrialization or a richness in natural resources and demands for a minimum of economic infrastructure. Most people are just equally poor; differences occur mainly between urban and rural areas, but range between little and even less income (see Socio-Economic Survey 2002 Somalia, pp. 36-42).


1For more information on the dimensions and calculation of the MPI see Alkire & Santos (2010) and also Ravallion (2011) for a critical discussion.


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
1.3 MB
Institution / Hochschule
Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH
2013 (November)
Theories of development Somalia Szirmai Development Africa Poverty developing countries malnutrition population growth economic dualism urbanization underutilization instability corruption environment technology jacobs university

Titel: Somalia - Development and Failure